I had been watching Black Mirror Season 3. All the episodes were like the dark side of design and technology. It reminds me of the previously required writing assignment from Sven: “The Evil of The Technology.”
In particular, the episode 1 “Nosedive” shocked me a lot, because the story is a quiet relevant to my initial thinking of criticizing our quantified-self and obsession with numbers, but also people who are in the society at episode 1 were a kind of similar to the expected user groups for my thesis project.
Insecure office worker Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) lives in a happy, smiley, status-obsessed nightmare world. Her old friend Naomi (Alice Eve) is one of society’s elites — and Lacie may have found a way to join her …
In this so-called “a happy, smiley, status-obsessed nightmare world,” people’s status and qualities are defined and judged by numbers. People can get high rates when they post good – positive, attractive, health, appealing contents that show a good side of humanity while the behaviors look pretentious. But our humans are vulnerable, imperfect and sometimes vicious creatures. We also have the dark sides of our nature which make us real human – I think the weak sides within our humanity differentiate artificial intelligence with us. The moral principles ruled by numbers were all good for the society and even themselves. But as philosophers claim, we find it difficult to base rigorous morality and austere principles on the precept that we should give ourselves more care than anything else in the world. We are more inclined to see taking care of ourselves as immorality, as a means of escape from all possible rules. (Foucault, Michel. “Technologies of the Self.”, Edited by Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman and Patrick H. Hutton, pp. 16-49. Univ. of Massachusets Press, 1988.)
I have been trying to enhance wellness in my life and making design products for people to maintain healthy lifestyles. I could see my user groups in the film which are represented by Naomi, a perfect woman with perfect body shape, who works out every day, eats all the healthy-organic foods to maintain a healthier lifestyle – which means a happy life in the creepy world. This makes me raise a question: what does even “the better self ” mean? It reminds me of the famous French philosopher Michel Foucault’s “technologies of the self.”
Since I came to New York, it’s still not familiar for me to always say “I am good”, “I am doing well” as responses to the most common question “how are you?” I sometimes feel it’s too pretentious while I like the innate positivity and morality in the Western culture. Doing good is not “always” good for our mental health. We sometimes subconsciously want to express our badass nature.
There are several reasons why “Know yourself” has obscured “Take care of yourself”. First, there has been a profound transformation in the moral principles of Western society. We find it difficult to base rigorous morality and austere principles on the precept that we should give ourselves more care than anything else in the world. We are more inclined to see taking care of ourselves as an immorality, as a means of escape from all possible rules. We inherit the tradition of Christian morality which makes self-renunciation the condition for salvation. To know oneself was paradoxically the way to self-renunciation.
I have developed my thesis concept of “Wearable Data” so far and today I had an 1:1 meeting with David Caroll, my thesis professor.The meeting was inspirational to think more about critical matters within my project! My developed idea, from the original idea of “Wearable Data” which displays a wearer’s data on one’s cloth, is to create a wearable fashion which changes its color and pattern, reacting to a user’s emotion based on life data analyzed by a self-data dashboard.
As my thought and belief about “Quantified Self” has been changed, my idea changed its direction how to give emotional value into data visualization. I’m still struggling to the point about what I should convey through my thesis project or what I argue with it. He gave me advice that if I observe people’s interaction with my project and document it, It will convey “a story” that explains my thoughts and could be the argument itself.
Also, I’m coming up with some visual, conceptual identifiers that can clarify my project. I found those words had some relevances to each other.
Emotional – Emotional Data, Emotional Textile, Synesthesia, Emotional Dashboard
Individualism – Customized Electronic Fashion, Wearable Data, Self-recognition, Quantified Self
Tangible – Data Physicalization, Garment as an interface, Color Changing E-textile
Analytical – Fashion As A Self-data Dashboard, Quantified Self, Algorithm-baed Software
Through my previous design education and brand design experience, I’m pretty familiar with coming up with visual identifiers and adjectives that represent a concept and identity, but for me, It was harder to come up with reconfigurable attributes that deliver critical thinking aspects of it within conceptual, cultural and political contexts.
For the next steps, I will be observing people’s interaction with my idea and project as well as creating a more specific phrase by combining the identifying words that I came up with. It is going to be a reconfigurable attribute that is an essence of my project.
Also, I am going to document how my view toward quantification of self-data has been changed. It was impressed my professor mentioned that visualization itself has a power based upon designer’s arbitral choosing process for visual orders that affect people’s perception by framing their mind and changing their opinion. Specifically, what he said was that visualization in terms of picturing, ordering and representation can create some bias in viewer’s mind. As a designer who majored design and advertising, I agree all the designer visualization is for re-framing people’s view and even behavior like buying a product. It’s the design’s role and power but could be a negative power that generates concrete bias as well.
Because of my background in visual communication design and advertising and my preference to think visually, I have been always into visual communication and visual representation itself. So I think… broadly, I should include “Visual Thinking” as one of my research areas. I’m reading a book Visual Thinking by Colin Ware for a reference. In this book, the author takes what we now know about perception, cognition, and attention and transforms it into concrete advice that designers can directly apply. He demonstrates how designs can be considered as tools for cognition – extensions of the viewer’s brain in much the same way that a hammer is an extension of the user’s hand.
There has been a revolution in our understanding of human perception that goes under the name “active vision.” Active vision means that we should think about graphic designs as cognitive tools, enhancing and extending our brains. Although we can, to some extent, from mental images in our heads, we do much bettwe when those images are out in the world, on paper or computer screen. Diagrams, maps, web pages, information graphics, visual instructions, and technical illustrations all help use to solve problems through a process of visual thinking. We are all cognitive cyborgs in this Internet age in the sense that we rely hevily on cognitive tools to amplify our mental abilities.
After the meeting with the professor, I discussed this idea with my friend Andrew, and he mentioned that it will be interesting to use projection mapping to visualize data on the garment. I thought it would be a more flexible way to present the data, but It seems it doesn’t represent the concept of “Wearable Data” which means a garment (textile) as an interface.